Checking In On Baseball Oddity Pat Venditte

In case you’re not familiar, Pat Venditte is a pitcher in the New York Yankees minor league system who has made some waves for his remakarkable talent: he’s a switch pitcher. Venditte pitches proficiently with both arms. His story made some national waves last year when an at-bat against a switch hitter led to a bit of a debacle (link includes video).

Not only was Venditte’s season a point of interest for those into baseball trivia and oddities, he actually performed quite well. Although his age (23) was advanced for A and A+, it was only his second professional season, and so his 2.07 cumulative FIP and 2.24 FIP at A+ Tampa certainly piqued the interest of some, although others aren’t exactly convinced yet.

Venditte has remained at Tampa for the beginning of the 2010 season, and he’s picked up right where he left off. Venditte is currently running an FIP of 2.52 in 26.1 innings, thanks to a 30:7 K:BB ratio and a spectacular HR/9 rate of only 0.34. His walk rate is actually slightly up from last season, when he only walked only 12 batters in 76.3 innings. To compensate, Venditte has seen a massive increase in his ground ball rate against both hands of hitters – his GB rate against both hitters has increased to 54.5%, up from only 34.2% against lefties and 49.2% against righties.

At the age of 24 – 25 in June – Venditte is about a year and a half older than the average Florida State League player. Between this season and the end of 2009, Venditte has put up about 70 innings of sub-3.00 FIP pitching in the FSL. In the Eastern League, where the AA Trenton Thunder play, the average age is 25. It seems that now (or at least soon) would be a good opportunity to see Venditte perform against players closer to his age level.

Especially given Venditte’s high K-rates and his increased ability to induce the ground ball, I think Venditte warrants more than just a passing look as a prospect. Having a reliever that has the platoon advantage in every situation is very intriguing, as it could potentially reduce the amount of relievers that a manager would need to carry. More importantly, Venditte has quite simply produced at every opportunity. The jump to AA is a big one, and it’s not obvious that Venditte has what it takes to handle the increased talent level, but after over 135 very successful innings in the lower minors, it may be time to get that opportunity sooner rather than later.

The oddity of Venditte also inspired me to think about what other interesting combinations of skills would be useful in a player. Personally, I would be interested in seeing a high platoon split reliever who also had the ability to play a strong (or even roughly average) defensive outfield. That way, that reliever could pitch to a same handed batter, move into the outfield for an opposite handed batter, and then return to the mound for any other same handed batters. Given the way benches are constructed, especially in the National League, the idea may be completely implausible, but given how important platoon splits can be late in games, I still think the idea could work. Feel free to post your concoctions in the comments section.



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BrettFan1
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BrettFan1
6 years 3 days ago

The guy you are looking for already exists, Ron Mahay. He initially made it to the major leagues as an outfielder before converting to pitching. However, I don’t believe any of his managers ever had the guts, KC managers certainly didn’t, to use him that way.

sleepykarl
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sleepykarl
6 years 3 days ago

Mahay doesn’t pitch both right and left-handed though (the whole point of the intrigue). Venditte is a switch pitcher.

delatopia
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delatopia
6 years 3 days ago

The last paragraph deals with “other interesting combinations of skills.” That’s a pivot away from the switch-pitching and is what BrettFan1 is talking about.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 3 days ago

SK, read the last paragraph in the article.

Steve C
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Steve C
6 years 3 days ago

MLB really knocked a lot of value out of Venditte being a switch pitcher with their ruling after the game. It boils down to the batter being able to select which side of the plate he will hit from, Venditte choosing which hand to throw with, and then the batter being able to switch again. They may do this between each pitch. Due to the rarity of a switch pitcher I think the advantage should be given to them, and the switch hitter should have to look at the ball coming from a location they have never seen before.

The Royals could do that with Pena, except send him to short stop. This might make even more sense to some degree because losing the bat of your short stop is usually not very costly. The typical corner outfielder is considerably better at the plate than a pinch hitter.

Steve C
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Steve C
6 years 3 days ago

And by Royals I mean Giants.

philosofool
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philosofool
6 years 3 days ago

I agree that the switch pitcher should get the advantage, but since most MLB hitters come from one side only, I think it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that MLB “knocked *a lot* of value” out of Venditte.

CSJ
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6 years 3 days ago

How about sergio santos? He played SS, I imagine he would be an okay outfielder.

joe
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joe
6 years 1 day ago

Or he could play shortstop. duh

Felonius_Monk
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Felonius_Monk
6 years 3 days ago

Tony LaRussa has done that once or twice (move a situational reliever into the field, usually LF) for one reason or other, although I think it’s been a while since it was done to specifically allow another pitcher into the game. It does seem surprising that it’s not done more often, however, and I would think the reliever wouldn’t even need to be very good in the OF:

If you assume a typical hitter will wOBA, say, .350 against an opposite-armed pitcher and maybe only .300 against a guy from the same side, that’s a pretty big change in expectancy from one situation to the next. If a short bench (or deep game or whatever) absolutely would NOT allow the situational switch to be made “normally” (by burning 2 situational pitchers instead of 1), I’d assume that the advantage of switching out an OFer (probably the weakest hitting corner guy) for a “second” situational reliever (thereby making one opponent face the .300 wOBA situation instead of the .350 one) will more than balance out the small improvement in hit-expectancy the hitter gets from the 10% or so of balls that he’ll hit into the outfield.

nothingxs
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6 years 3 days ago

I’ve always said (and you can call me an idiot if you’d like) that the Marlins should explore some option with the Yankees to get Venditte into AA or AAA for them. Venditte clearly has good enough stuff — and an interesting enough ability — to warrant an opportunity to pitch to a higher level of batter. The Marlins’ bench is starved for arms, and here’s a guy who effectively gives you two of them. What do the Marlins have to lose?

I suppose I should call Fredi.

ralf
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ralf
6 years 3 days ago

I think a reliever who can hit for himself, while obviously a rarity, is a huge asset. The Brewers used to have Brooks Kieschnick (sp?), who was a replacement-level pitcher at best, but could hold his own at the plate. I don’t remember whether he played any outfield when he was pitching for the Brewers but he could have as he played as an OF in the minors. When a NL manager sends up a PH early in the game (or in extra innings) it’s often a backup infielder. It doesn’t take much to equal that level of production, and if the reliever can hit for himself it gives the manager another move later in the game. Micah Owings has that potential, although he hasn’t been doing much at the plate this year. Carlos Zambrano could extend his career in this kind of role too.
I’d like to see this kind of thing done more- you don’t have to be Lenny Harris, you just have to be as good as the worst hitter on the bench.
Also, with the amount of time pitchers spend shagging flies in the OF during batting practice, you’d think quite a few of them could handle an inning or two in RF on occasion.
The biggest obstacle to overcome for either of these ideas is the fear of getting a pitcher injured. A guy blows out his elbow on the mound, well, these things happen. If he does it making a throw from RF on a sac fly, the manager would never hear the end of it.

Bill@TDS
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6 years 3 days ago

Kieschnick is the first thing I thought of w/ that last paragraph. He looked like a better pitcher than you give him credit for (4.12 FIP), and was passable with the bat and glove too. It’s weird to me that the Brewers or somebody else didn’t give him another chance after 2004.

ralf
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ralf
6 years 3 days ago

I guess I should’ve looked up his numbers. I probably remember him as replacement-level because it’s easy to think of the whole Brewers roster from that era as being replacement-level.

Anon
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Anon
6 years 1 day ago

Owings is mis-cast as a pitcher. He pitches high and in like a power pitcher but tops out at 91 and he doesn’t have the control or savvy to be a finesse pitcher. OTOH the guy is a legitimate big-league hitter. He is only 1-9 this year but, oh yeah, the 1 is a HR. His career OPS is 863. You know how everyone lauds Carlos Zambrano for his bat? His career OPS is 630 and his big season in 2008 was 892.

Owings is a good enough athlete for corner OF, 1B or even 3B (however, given his lack of playing time at 3B. . . .ever. . . .he probably doesn’t slot well there although he has the athleticism to do it) and should be developing his bat not wasting his time plunking batters and putting up a 5+ ERA

Matt
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Matt
6 years 3 days ago

Sure, the ability to have the advantage in any platoon is great, but I think that ignores the other huge value here: durability.

Does he get a different pitch count with each arm?
Could he start/throw several innings of relief two days in a row? In two ends of a double header?

Torgen
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Torgen
6 years 3 days ago

Could he be a starting pitcher and throw up to 100 pitches with each arm? In such a situation he could take advantage of switch hitters to even out the pitch counts from each arm.

Larry Smith Jr.
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6 years 2 days ago

This is where I see his greatest value as well. It seems he may be able to pitch multiple days in a row by spreading the workload across his arms. Also, in the event that one of his arms gets injured, it may even be possible for him to continue pitching with the other while the first heals, thus temporarily limiting his impact but still making him valuable overall in that it won’t necessitate having to replace him with a lesser pitcher entirely.

Cidron
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Cidron
6 years 2 days ago

Initially, i would agree with you that each arm has a “seperate pitch count” workload on it. But, upon further thought, I disagree. Not saying that it cant be a factor, but, the entire body fatigues with the work. Yes, the arm fatigues most, as its the part doing the most work. But, the chest muscles, the leg muscles etc etc all are working alot too. In short, Maybe he will be allowed a higher workload, but.. not anything remotely like twice the load (afterall, he does have twice the usable arms for pitching – as the line of thought in above posts sound like).

J Bravo
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J Bravo
6 years 1 day ago

Yes, his arms do have different pitch counts. I went to college with Venditte at Creighton, and he was a work horse for the Jays. I doubt he could get a full workload out of each arm, but 80% is entirely reasonable. In the 2007 MVC tournament, I remember him pitching four or five innings of long relief, and then starting the game the next day and going five or six innings. There’s no reason he couldn’t pitch every day. (I doubt he could pitch injured, though.)

jklender
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jklender
6 years 3 days ago

Good questions… Ones that I think a lot of Major League clubs don’t have an answer for just yet, given the rarity involved. I always love the outside-the-box thinking involving pitchers, and a guy like Venditte — if he were good enough to get to the show — could indeed open up a lot of possibilities. Clubs are always searching for the Holy Grail of roster flexability.

Another point to be raised is that while Venditte does have an inherent advantage, he also has to put in twice the amount of work. It’s impressive that in doing so, his focus isn’t spread thin where his pitches suffer. (Similar to why a lot of young switch hitters are eventually asked to stick to one side of the plate.) It’s quite a feat for him to be able to maintain and build upon those skills with both arms, and to apply his abilities effectively against such a high level of competition.

Randy Brown
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Randy Brown
6 years 2 days ago

I’d like to see a 4th or 5th outfielder that can throw a knuckleball, and sop up some innings in low-leverage situations.

DL80
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DL80
6 years 2 days ago

I doubt this is what you mean, Jack, but Brandon Inge could extend his career as a true super-utility guy. He should be able to play every position. He’s had 3000 innings at C, 6700 at 3b, 300 in the outfield (230 in CF). He could probably play a serviceable SS or 2B, and could certainly handle 1B if need be (though he’s only 5’11”). He’d be the rare super-sub that could actually catch and play CF.

DL80
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DL80
6 years 2 days ago

Also, what about an ambidextrous catcher? Being able to switch gloves (and throwing hands) with batters from each side of the plate would make it slightly easier to throw out runners. Presumably the slight extra advantage isn’t worth the years of extra footwork and throwing work it would take.

Alex B.
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Alex B.
6 years 1 day ago

I can’t see how that would be worth the effort involved, though I admit it is a cool idea. The difference here is that there is a precedent for LHPs and RHPs (though they are rarely the same person). There hasn’t been a lefty-throwing catcher in the majors in ages.

RoyaleWithCheese
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RoyaleWithCheese
6 years 20 hours ago

Lou Piniella did that last year with Sean Marshall. Brought him in to face one hitter, moved him to left field for the next at bat, then sent him back to the mound to get the last two outs.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN200907122.shtml

RoyaleWithCheese
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RoyaleWithCheese
6 years 20 hours ago

Oops didn’t mean to reply there.

Steven Gomez
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6 years 1 day ago

It must be noted that the Florida State League average HR/9 so far is 0.49. So Venditte’s 0.34 HR/9 ought to be weighed against that average. The FSL is not a power hitter’s league.

RoyaleWithCheese
Member
RoyaleWithCheese
6 years 20 hours ago

Lou Piniella did that last year with Sean Marshall. Brought him in to face one hitter, moved him to left field for the next at bat, then sent him back to the mound to get the next two outs.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN200907122.shtml

RoyaleWithCheese
Member
RoyaleWithCheese
6 years 16 hours ago

Also, according to “The Book”, this sort of thing is almost always a good idea.

Even if the pitcher were an absolutely atrocious defender (twice as bad as the worst full-time outfielder in the majors), he would only cost his team .010 runs per PA in the field. By contrast, he would save his team .014 runs per PA on the mound, if he had a typical platoon split.

Gilbert
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Gilbert
5 years 11 months ago

The P-OF thing would work best if you had a LH and a RH partner that could handle it, and if one sucked on the mound the value of the other would drop. Assuming neither is any good with the bat but has decent legs, it could even start with a PR appearance for your old bat LF and the opposite pitcher would already be in the field for the platoon switch, seeing that unless there was a rally that position won’t come up to bat the next inning.

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